Tuesday, October 30, 2018


The time has come for the country to brace itself as another typhoon from the Pacific bears down on the Philippines. After forming due east of Guam and the Northern Marianas two Sundays ago, the weather depression formed into a storm and given the name Yutu, reaching Category 5 super typhoon status around the middle of last week. Come this past weekend, the storm entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility and was named Rosita by PAGASA, with its course charted to go through Luzon. With severe conditions and nasty wave beginning to form, evacuation of Luzon’s east coast has begun in preparation for landfall Tuesday.
CNN Philippines reports that as of Monday, October 29, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services, has raised the dreaded typhoon signal number three on three provinces of Luzon, ahead of the imminent landfall of typhoon Rosita. The provinces in question are Isabela, Quirino and the northern part of Aurora, all of which have eastern coastlines that would bear the brunt of Rosita’s approach into Luzon. From its last reading at noontime, the typhoon was 400 km (249 miles) due east of the mainland, wind speeds clocking at 150 km/h and gustiness of 185 km/h.
While actual landfall is not until tomorrow morning, the signal number 3 areas can start moderate to heavy rains this evening, accompanied by winds strong enough to damage vegetation and infrastructure. While dangerous, these conditions are a bid milder than expected due to Rosita passing through the Northern Mariana Islands beforehand. Nevertheless, a storm surge of up to three meters high has been predicted not just in the signal number 3 areas but also in the coastal areas of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and La Union. PAGASA estimates that once inland, Rosita will pass through the provinces of Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet and La Union in a 24-hour period before exiting to the West Philippine Sea on Halloween, October 31.
Other Luzon provinces have also raised typhoon signals, distributed thusly:
  1. Abra
  2. Southern Aurora
  3. Benguet
  4. Cagayan
  5. Ifugao
  6. Ilocos Sur
  7. Kalinga
  8. La Union
  9. Mountain Province
  10. Nueva Ecija
  11. Nueva Vizcaya
  12. Pangasinan
  13. Northern Quezon including Polillo Island
  14. Tarlac
  1. Apayao
  2. Bataan
  3. Batanes and Babuyan Islands
  4. Batangas
  5. Bulacan
  6. Camarines Norte
  7. Cavite
  8. Ilocos Norte
  9. Laguna
  10. NCR
  11. Pampanga
  12. Southern Quezon
  13. Rizal
  14. Zambales
Rosita is the 18th typhoon to hit the Philippines in this year alone, two short now of the yearly average.
Image courtesy of PAGASA


The story of private aerospace firm SpaceX, one of many companies started by the visionary Elon Musk, is well known and documented. It spoke of determination, as when SpaceX put all their efforts into realizing the concept of a reusable rocket delivery system that would greatly cut down costs in both satellite launching and potentially manned space flight. Already their space capsules have deployed satellites into orbit, and sent vital resupplies to the International Space Station. The success of SpaceX is something other private space startups hope to emulate. One Chinese firm has gone so far as to launch its own rocket lately, only to not quite make it through.
As The Verge tells it, the past weekend saw Chinese private aerospace startup LandSpace perform a test launch of their Zhuque-1 3-stage rocket system. While the launch vehicle managed to take off without incident from its pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, its thrust capacity was not enough to achieve escape velocity, the necessary speed to completely negate Earth’s gravitational force to make it all the way to space orbit. LandSpace, based in Beijing is one of many privatized aerospace startups that have emerged following approval from the Chinese Communist government for the private sector to enter the space industry.
LandSpace explained the orbital launch failure of their Zhuque-1 rocket on its official page on Chinese social media platform Weibo. They explained that everything in the launching sequence occurred without incident until it was time for the rocket’s third stage to ignite. A system error occurred at that critical juncture, preventing the Zhuque-1 from maintaining its momentum. Nevertheless, the company has considered the launch attempt successful, as the first two stages managed to burn properly. Thought it was designated a test launch, the Zhuque 1 did carry an actual payload, a transmission satellite for the Chinese state TV network CCTV.
While originally relying solely on the facilities and launch vehicles of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the country opened the space launching door to private firms in 2014. LandSpace came into the picture after being founded the following year, and while it was the first Chinese commercial space launch to actually try for orbit, actual rocket flights to sub-orbital altitude have been undertaken earlier by another Beijing-based company, OneSpace, in May and then September.
Following the first launch of their Zhuque-1 vehicle, LandSpace announced that they will continue to move their rocket designs forward, especially since they were the first private startup given a vital rocket launch license from the government. OneSpace for their part is planning on no less than 10 launch missions in 2019, though they have not specified if one of them will go to orbit.
Image courtesy of SpaceNews

GODZILLA Celebrating 64 YEARS in FILM at TOKYO Film Fest

Up from the depths, thirty stories high, breathing fire, his head in the sky…so goes one way of describing one of the most recognizable and iconic creatures ever shown in motion picture history. After “King Kong” but before the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park”, Japanese studio Toho created a giant bipedal lizard with atomic breath: “Godzilla”. Their allegorical cautionary tale on the horrors of nuclear war in 1954 gave rise to a multimedia franchise that even has adaptations in the West. But at home Godzilla continues to reign as King of the Monsters, even as it celebrates 64 years in film.
Godzilla fanatics in Japan are getting ready to celebrate this coming November 3, the release of the first film featuring the titular “kaiju” and is designated as its birthday. This year it is also the date, according to The Hollywood Reporter, for the closing of the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF). And it seems rather fortuitous that among the final features to be screened at the occasion on that day, is the latest Japanese “Godzilla” film production. This is the animated film “Godzilla: The Planet Eater” from Toho Animation and Polygon Pictures, the conclusion of a Netflix-exclusive movie trilogy.
The 2018 TIFF started in grand form on Thursday, October 25 at the Hibiya Midtown in Tokyo, long a favored (literal) stomping ground of Godzilla. Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita, co-directors of the franchise’s most current Japanese installment were among those who walked the red carpet on opening night, accompanied by two voice actors from “The Planet Eater” as well as a retro throwback in the “person” of a stunt performer in a rubber Godzilla suit. At the same time and venue, the country’s annual Godzilla fandom event, Godzilla Fes 2018, is also drawing the crowds with its extensive exhibit of old Godzilla costumes, panels with decades’ worth of producers and actors, and plentiful merchandise.
“Godzilla” premiered in 1954, less than 10 years after the actual atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, earning great success from an audience that still freshly remembered the horror of nuclear destruction, manifested in the nuclear-mutated giant lizard. Close to 64 years later, that franchise runs 31 Japanese movies and 3 from Hollywood. The latest of these, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” from Legendary Pictures, will premiere on May 31 next year. A number of TV productions including animated series were also released years before.
Final showings for the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival, including “Godzilla: The Planet Eater”, will be done in November 3 at the Tokyo International Forum. The directors and voice cast will also be in attendance.
Images: Comicbook.com, Den of Geek

Thursday, October 25, 2018


The saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” That wait, where tourists and vacationers itching to visit – or revisit –the white sandy beaches of Boracay Island are concerned, is finally come to an end. Six months the resort island had been barred to the outside world by government orders, in order to clean up its ecological disaster and overcrowded infrastructure. This work has not yet ended, but Boracay has been judged fit to reopen as scheduled. Following a soft opening period almost two weeks ago, to shake down the new features and regulations for beachgoers, Boracay is ready.
CNN Philippines reports that the resort island of Boracay has been fully reopened to tourists this Friday, October 26, a full six months following its shutdown in April at the order of President Rodrigo Duterte. The fiery President had declared the Philippines’ most recognizable resort to be a “cesspool” following reports of illegal structures on the coastlines, lack of sewage systems and environmental damage that has resulted in potentially health-hazardous seawater content. During its closure, the resort island was gone over with a fine-toothed comb by national and local governments alongside local business interests, to correct any ecological disasters and improve on its existing infrastructure.
Of course, all the rehabilitation efforts put into Boracay for the better part of this year would go to waste if tourists were given too much leeway on the island. To address that, the DENR and DOT have released a set of guidelines to curb the buildup of waste, as well as control the volume of people at any time. Aside from littering and vomiting prohibitions, the beachfront is now barred to pets, beach-beds, chairs, umbrellas, hot-coal roasting, partying, and late-night fireworks displays. Water sports and sandcastle-building are to be regulated, torches would be replaced with LED lights, and no casinos can operate on Boracay.
Even access to the island has some caveats now. There are only a limited number of Boracay hotels and accommodations accredited by the government to allow bookings by tourists, and all incoming vacationers must be able to present reservations slips to those listed hotels to be allowed entry. Furthermore, the maximum tourist limit of 6,000 on Boracay at any given time will be strictly enforced, a far cry from the old glory days when the crowds numbered 19,000 on average.
While Boracay is now back in business – in a more manageable manner – the government stresses that its rehabilitation has only entered into a new phase, with facilities such as a circumferential road still in progress. Barring complications, full rehabilitation of Boracay and its environs are expected sometime in December 2019.
Image courtesy of Panay News


The next Academy Awards to be held next year has been caught up in the middle of an apparent adjustment period. Said time can somewhat be attributed to the superhero movie genre. The push to acknowledge a blockbuster with a particular aesthetic and cultural vision like “Black Panther” had the Academy briefly consider adding a new “Popular Picture” category that might slot in that installment of the MCU franchise if it does not get into consideration for “Best Picture”. That did not materialize after all, and the issue is up in the air. But now more super-films are being pushed for Academy Award nomination, and this time they are animated.
Comic Book Resources reports that at least 25 animated have been put forward to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from which to draw the slate of official nominees for the Best Animated Feature category in the 91st Academy Awards next year. This was announced by AMPAS on Wednesday, October 24. That normally is not much to write about, aside perhaps from waxing praise on a potential win by what Disney film has already premiered, but two entries have got the superhero film-viewing audience rather excited for their surprise inclusion in selection.
Said films are “Teen Titans GO! To the Movies” from Warner Bros. Animation that came out this July, and the upcoming “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” from Sony Pictures Animation. They will be contending against the likes of Disney-Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” and the remake of Christmas classic “The Grinch”. For Warner-DC, this is their second rodeo for an Oscar nomination; “The LEGO Batman Movie” was in contention last year, but was ultimately not nominated. Marvel, on the other hand, has finally gotten a superhero film through Sony to be considered for the Oscars, something that feels overdue and speaks positively for the chances of “Black Panther”.
The pushes for these movies in the Academy Awards are very telling of the major movie studios behind them. For “Teen Titans GO!” it is a mark of supreme confidence in Warner-DC’s part that the film adaptation of their gag-filled animated series on Cartoon Network does have the chops to be considered artistic. “Into the Spider-Verse” is no slouch either, despite not premiering yet, thanks to its magnificent visuals, choice soundtrack and effective acting on the part of its cast. Now all that is left is for them to actually make it to a nomination.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” arrives in cinemas on December 14. The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 24, 2019 at Dolby Theater.
Images: YouTube and Sony Pictures


What could be better than a major recording artist arriving in the country for a concert? Why, that would be having said music star coming back to the Philippines for a repeat performance of course. That goes double if the “comeback” to our shores is quite a long time from the previous appearance. This week, the returning singing idol is none other than diva Mariah Carey, who last performed in the Philippines in 2014 as part of her concert tour at the time. After four years, she is back and looking forward to wowing her Filipino fans one more time.
As ABS-CBN News tells us, Mariah Carey arrived in Manila by private aircraft from her previous concert stop in Shanghai, during the wee hours of Thursday, October 25. Her plane touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at about 3 AM, but even before dawn the highly celebrated diva was absolutely chipper as she met with the waiting press corps right on the tarmac. All this of course is in anticipation for a special one-night concert engagement by Carey this coming Friday, October 26, at the Araneta Coliseum, something that her Filipino fans have been eagerly waiting to experience.
“I can’t wait to see the fans, the Filipino fans,” Carey spoke to reporters at the NAIA tarmac, in the company of boyfriend Bryan Tanaka and her twin children Moroccan and Monroe, now aged 7 both. “I’m so excited.” Needless to say, the local Mariah fandom are just as totally giddy with the chance to see her on stage once more, if their social media posts were any indication. Her Friday concert will see Carey perform all her greatest and Billboard number-one hit songs. Ticket priceranges at the Araneta venue run the gamut from P1,945 to P25,200, with the optimal seating apparently costing P10,500.
Even while Mariah Carey is busy with her current concert tour, she already has major activities waiting for her in the months ahead. For one thing she announced on Twitter just this Tuesday, October 23, that she will be joining NBC singing reality competition “The Voice” on its 15th season. She famously sat as judge for that show’s older rival “American Idol” in that program’s season 12. On “The Voice”, she will serve as an advisor during the knockout rounds and serve as a mentor for the lucky 32 contestants alongside Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton.

Mariah is a big concert draw whenever she performs in Asia. In fact, this past weekend she was honored by Sony Music Asia Pacific for her 1.6 billion unit sale achievement in the region. That of course includes the Philippines.
Image courtesy of Ticketnet Online


Earlier this year during the Super Bowl, online retailing juggernaut Amazon aired during commercial break a rather hilarious ad for their Alexa home smart speaker. It involves Alexa losing her “voice” for existing users, forcing Amazon to roll out an emergency program roping celebrities like Gordon Ramsay and Cardi B to temporarily sub in for the smart speaker’s responses. A lot of laughs were had perhaps eight months ago, especially owing to the notion that live people would be roped in to help Alexa during a malfunction. Now it seems the commercial’s creators may have foresight considering recent inconvenient events.
Tech Crunch tells us that Amazon Alexa has manifested some problems for its users, and this time there are no famous personalities taking over for “her”. Amazon consumers with Alexa smart speakers in their homes have begun reporting that their devices are not responding to commands for online search, media playback or even utility-appliance operation. While Alexa does register users attempting to talk to her, she always returns the answer of “Sorry, something went wrong.” It is a rather fresh and ongoing development, such that Amazon has yet to say anything about the problem and when it will be resolved.
Down Detector, the online website which tracks outage occurrences of its fellow online service platforms has registered massive outages of Alexa concentrated in the contiguous United States since about morning (PST) of Tuesday, October 23. The greatest concentrations of these service interruptions are in California and the Eastern Seaboard, with smaller blackout areas in Oregon, Florida, Texas and the Great Lakes area. Non-US areas similarly affected, though of a smaller degree, include the UK and parts of Ireland, Germany, western India and South Korea. Some users were able to regain Alexa functionality quickly, while others remain affected with unresponsive devices.
The thing is, this sudden loss of service from Amazon Alexa is not a new occurrence. The earliest incident this year was in March, just one month after the Alexa “lost voice” ad premiered during Super Bowl LII. This was caused by networking bugs on Amazon Web Services. And then, last September, it was Europe that felt the brunt of lost responses from the rather popular home smart speaker, with significant service interruptions in United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and Australia. Much expected, Alexa users in the US have begun venting their frustrations on the service loss on social media outlets.
Images: Down Detector, Best Buy